Eight representatives from the Pinewood Student Council were fortunate to visit the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. The journey started with a Mrs. Brunton special walk/jog down to Ware railway station. We keenly waited for the 09.53 to arrive working out which way the train would be travelling using the colour of the lights as a guide. The next challenge was transferring from mainline to underground. All the pupils successfully negotiated the ticket barriers and we all managed to get on the Circle Line tube heading towards Westminster. Ahead of schedule we chose to disembark at Embankment to spot various landmarks.
We crossed the River Thames using the Golden Jubilee Bridge. We all had great fun looking at all the magnificent buildings, including the lower two thirds of the Shard – the top third was shrouded in cloud. The pupils also noticed the police boat with flashing light.
We neared Westminster Bridge not before encountering the London Eye. Mr Ritchie talked of the festivals that used to be held on the Thames when it used to be frozen. Mrs. Brunton shared her expert knowledge of wildlife and described the London Plane Tree which sheds its own bark to reveal a new layer.
Time for the main event and we reached the Westminster Education Centre politely met by security, fortunately no alarms sounded when going through the metal detectors. Our tour guide Tanya introduced herself and proceeded to take us round the magnificent buildings of Westminster. The murals in each corridor were very impressive and helped create a mystical and historical atmosphere.
Our first feature building was Westminster Hall. This is a magnificent building which dates back to Henry VIII. Apparently he played tennis in there!! Our next room was the incredibly impressive and ornate House of Lords (that’s the one with the red chairs which we are not allowed to sit down on Mr. Ritchie!). The Queen sits in this room once a year for the StateOpening of Parliament. For over 500 years, State Opening has served as a symbolic reminder of the unity of Parliament’s three parts: the Sovereign; the House of Lords; and the House of Commons.
We then ascended several flights of stairs to sit in the public viewing gallery of the House of Commons (green seats). This was another impressive building with beautifully crafted woodwork. An MP was talking about money to a fairly small audience who didn’t seem to be particularly interested which we found quite amusing. Without wishing to distract the speaker with rumbling stomachs we headed back to the Education Centre for lunch.
Here we were met by Sophie who led a fantastic voting workshop. The pupils were put in teams and had to choose two policies from a manifesto of nine for example: ban smoking in cars; people who commit crimes must serve community service near or at the scene of the crime; more money should be spent on underprivileged countries. There was a cost that needed to be worked out too. Each party, wearing coloured rosettes, then had to present their chosen policies. Presentations over each pupil put a cross against their policy of choice on a slip before placing it in the black ballot box. The winning party was blue (significant?).
Unfortunately, it was time to go home so we meandered our way through puddles before taking the tube and train back to school. Congratulations to all the pupils on their good behaviour and enthusiasm on the trip. Hopefully they have gained an insight to what a much bigger council does and that decisions in school can help make for a better learning environment.